By CODY LEIST
PDT Sports Writer
LUCASVILLE — Twelve-year-old Tucker Williams crouched down behind the plate at the J. W. McKinley Park Complex Saturday to catch the ceremonial first pitch for the 2012 Lucasville Little League season.
The pitch was coming from his grandfather, Valley baseball coach Dean Schuler. With 31 seasons and over 500 wins at the helm of the Indians, Schuler and his family have been major contributors to athletics in all levels at Valley.
Dean’s father, Glen, used to coach while his mom, Ruth, and sisters—Emilie, Glenna and Patricia—would operate the concession stands. They wanted to make sure all kids had a chance to compete in athletics at a young age.
So Williams, in his seventh and final year of Little League, had one thing on his mind as he hid behind the mask as hundreds of people circled the diamond to watch the toss. He had only learned of this opportunity just a week ago and didn’t have any practice.
“It felt weird because I didn’t want to drop it,” Williams said. “It was pretty nerve-wracking.”
After the parade that started the festivities concluded and all had gathered to the four-diamond complex, Schuler threw a perfect strike to the mitt and it didn’t hit the ground. With that, the 54th season of Little League in Lucasville was under way for all the local boys and girls.
“The opening day ceremony is pretty big for the community,” Lucasville Little League President Mike Johnson said.
Everyone has their own way of creating memories with their families. Whether it’s in a career field, leisure time or play, it’s the little moments that are the ones that stick out the most.
For Johnson, there’s one thing that sticks out the most when an offseason’s-worth of work comes to this moment.
“To see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Johnson said.
His children, Baylie (10) and Blaize (6) will be playing this season. He knows all of the players this year will be in the hands of the great people who will be coaching.
Last season, the above average amount of rain proved to be too much to overcome in order to have all four fields operational. This year, the countless hours of work volunteers contributed along with the better weather were enough to make sure the T-Ball field would be playable.
Now with donations from sponsors such as Play Hard, Don’t Blink—who donated 105 batting helmets and 18 fielding masks for softball players—the kids will be able to enjoy our nation’s national past time. I played baseball every year except for one from kindergarten up until my senior year of high school and I always felt at ease when I could go out and play instead of worrying if our team had the necessary gear.
Baseball and softball are the most fun at their purest form. Watching a little kid learn how to play a game while building friendships, teamwork and character is very gratifying all while putting the struggles of life’s daily grind behind you.
It’s even more rewarding when high school students, athletes or non-athletes, line the parade route cheering on the kids who are in the spots they were in not too long ago. It builds community pride.
“To grow up and be a part of that organization and to watch the kids is an honor,” Schuler said.
This will not be Schuler’s last year to watch younger generations of his family play one of his favorite sports. He still has nieces, nephews and grandchildren who will be playing next season.
Among those will be Tucker’s nine-year-old brother, Breckon. Tucker has tried to teach his younger sibling many things about the game.
“He doesn’t listen to me,” Williams said.
The Lucasville season runs until June 15. Whether it’s there, Wheelersburg, Portsmouth or where ever is closest to you, cheer on these kids or volunteer your time to make sure they have a wonderful experience.
I’m pretty sure they’ll return the favor at a later time.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.